Caladiums combine colorful arrowhead-shape leaves with easy growing requirements to star in containers and shade gardens from early summer until frost. Plant them in part shade or where they will receive filtered sun; bright sun can scorch their leaves. Those large leaves can also be damaged by strong winds, so site accordingly. Pair caladiums with ferns, hostas, and other shade perennials in the landscape. They thrive in containers and are especially striking when planted alongside begonia, fuchsia, and impatiens.
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Caladium Care Must-Knows
Caladiums grow best in warm, moist, organically-rich, acidic soil. For that reason, don't plant these heat-lovers too early in the growing season. Early planting in cool earth results in slow growth and tuber rot when the tubers sit for long periods of time in moist soil. A good rule of thumb is to plant caladium tubers in the soil around the time you plant okra seed in the garden or set out tomato transplants in cool regions. A soil temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit is preferred. Plant tubers so their puckered or knobby sides are up, placing them 2 inches below the soil surface and 10 to 12 inches apart. Water plants frequently, keeping soil evenly moist but not saturated. Caladiums will rot in consistently soggy soil.
The key to an eye-catching caladium planting is quantity. Plant at least three caladiums together for a bold statement. If you have space, a mass planting of five or seven plants is even better. Choose one variety and situate plants about 10 inches apart for a colorful show.
Provide caladium plants with regular moisture, and never let the soil dry out completely. Fertilize plants every couple of weeks with a liquid fertilizer to promote strong foliage growth. Keep your eyes open for slugs and snails that may chomp holes in the leaves.
Caladiums are hardy in Zones 9-10. In all other Zones, you can save tubers for planting the following year by digging them up at the end of the growing season. (Caladiums planted in a container can stay there as long as the container is brought inside.) Overwintered tubers often grow smaller foliage than new tubers, so many gardeners choose to start with fresh plants every season.
When overwintering caladium tubers, dig them up in fall before the leaves have lost all color. Dry the tubers by spreading them out in a cool, dry place, such as a garage floor, for a week or two. Cut dry foliage from the tubers and remove all dry soil, then pack them in dry peat moss or sawdust for storage. Arrange the tubers in peat moss so they do not touch each other, and store them where temperature will not drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once reserved for shade gardens, caladiums now come in sun-tolerant varieties that stand up to bright days. Grow sun-tolerant caladiums in areas that receive bright morning sun and afternoon shade.
More Varieties of Caladium
'Florida Cardinal' Caladium
This variety of Caladium produces red heart-shape leaves broadly bordered in green. The plant grows 12 inches tall and is part of a thicker-leaved caladium series bred in Florida for sun tolerance. Zones 10-11
'Florida Elise' Caladium
Caladium 'Florida Elise' bears vibrant splashes of silvery pink that highlight the 16-inch-long leaves. This variety takes more sun than most and grows 2 feet tall. Zones 10-11
'Florida Red Ruffles' Caladium
This Caladium selection offers narrow heart-shape leaves in a dramatic shade of dark red and are edged in lime green. This sun-tolerant variety grows to 12 inches tall. Zones 10-11
'Miss Muffet' Caladium
Caladium 'Miss Muffet' produces pink veins on lime-green leaves and is embellished with burgundy spots. This dwarf variety grows 12 inches tall. Zones 10-11
'Marie Moir' Caladium
This Caladium variety is an artful selection where each leaf is splashed with daubs of red. It grows 24 inches tall. Zones 10-11
Caladium 'Gingerland' bears intricate veining of maroon, pink, and green in a showstopping combination on the leaves. The plant grows 12 inches tall. Zones 10-11
'White Queen' Caladium
Caladium 'White Queen' is a classic with silvery-white leaves etched with rich red and green veining. Each leaf grows 10-20 inches long. This variety grows 24 inches tall. Zones 10-11